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February 15, 2022

What Will Your Legacy Be?

Post By:
Karey L. Bosack Greenstein, J.D.
In-House Contributor
Director of Planned Giving
Memorial & Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundations
Guest Contributor:

When you hear the word “legacy,” what comes to mind? Large amounts of cash and precious jewels? A distant cousin’s multi-million-dollar estate in a swanky oceanfront town? An inheritance of some sort? Perhaps you may think of your “birthright,” like being entitled to the successful family business or your great-great grandfather’s war medals? A legacy can be all of that. But, to many, a legacy is so much more than gifting an amount of money or property to someone. A legacy may encompass tradition and even heritage. It is about how you lived your life and the impact you had on the people and places that witnessed your presence. It is about the richness and fullness of the life you live and the “mark” you make on this world.

Put simply, a legacy includes the tangible and intangible “something” that is received from someone who has passed on. Leaving a legacy can be something quite powerful. As women in the twenty-first century, collectively we are enjoying the legacy of countless courageous women throughout history. Thanks to the suffragists from the late 1800s and early 1900s, we have the right to vote. Because of the tireless advocates for women’s advancement during the women’s rights movement of the 1960s and 70s, often referred to as the women’s liberation movement or feminist movement, women today enjoy more equal rights and greater personal freedoms than our female ancestors. In fact, a lot of the things modern women may take for granted (think: wearing pant suits judgment free, seeking out the highest level of education, playing professional sports, or holding C-suite positions) are a direct result of the legacy bestowed upon us by those feminist pioneers. Even today, while inequities and disparities between men and women still exist (sigh), there are thousands of warriors fighting for women’s equality – from sexual and reproductive rights to workplace discrimination and everything in between – aiming to be the change and leave a legacy for generations to come.

It's pretty damn inspiring if you ask me.

If you think you can’t leave a legacy, or that you’re too young to start legacy planning, think again. You don’t have to be ultra-wealthy or part of an organized movement to leave a meaningful legacy to the people (and places) you love. You can (and should) start now.

Building a legacy starts by asking yourself these questions:

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“What kind of mark do I want to leave on this earth?” and “What are the most important values, virtues and traditions that help define who I am as a person?” The answers will help you begin your journey of lasting impact.


Live your life with fervor. Be passionate and purposeful in living those values, virtues, and traditions that define you. Support the causes you care about, keep alive the parts of your heritage and culture that make you proud, and allow others to witness the essence of you.

The mark you leave behind, and hence, legacy, will undoubtedly be how people remember you. Your small part in wearing pink to support breast cancer awareness and research, walking for the animals, paddling for cystic fibrosis, organizing a toy drive for pediatric cancer patients, and just being involved, does make a big difference. 

Embrace your heritage, culture and family traditions. Remember, a legacy is also about how you live your life. With America being such a melting pot of people from all walks of life and various backgrounds, it’s important to be steadfast in those rituals that make you, well, you. Passing on traditions from generation to generation starts with actually partaking in celebrated festivities and honoring the uniqueness of our roots.

While your children may not support the same nonprofit missions you donated and volunteered to/for, the fact that they witnessed you, during your lifetime, caring and being involved, teaches them to be civic-minded and compassionate towards others; it instills in them a desire to be philanthropic and a commitment to making the world a better place. While others may not be of the same heritage as you, witnessing you embrace your own ancestry and culture allows others to be more conscious and accepting of our differences. 


If you think about how your loved ones will remember you when you hear the word “legacy,” let me tell you that the most treasured legacy you can bestow upon your loved ones are the moments you create and the memories you leave behind. They are invaluable.

In a fast-paced world filled with iPhones, social media and the unnecessary expectation of always having to be available (ever get that phone call from someone saying, “Did you see my email?” that they just sent five minutes ago?), it’s tough to “turn it off” and just be, yet it is ever so imperative. Be present now. Be mindful of your needs, as well as the needs of others. Do you want your significant other, children, loved ones and friends to remember you constantly glued to your phone and always moving about checking off your to do list? Or, do you want them to remember you laughing, loving and living life? 

Being present can be challenging – I know this firsthand. Start by putting the phone down and having screen-free time with your loved ones. Think about it: capturing all those “moments” for your Instagram feed may yield tons of likes, but how much do you actually remember of that particular moment that you experienced looking through a camera lense rather than with your own eyes? When your kid scores big or nails that difficult dance move, did they look up and see your face or the back of your phone? When you are at an intimate dinner with your beau, do you reach for his hand or your mobile device? 

In a digital world, being present – what used to be second nature – has become a skill that you must consciously develop and strengthen on the daily. I guarantee you, however, that working on this “skill” will not only allow you to enjoy life a little more “in the now,” but will also empower you to be on your way to creating lasting memories and establishing your legacy of love. 


This step is obvious and simple enough, but, surprisingly, it’s one that is quite frequently ignored, forgotten and neglected. According to a 2021 survey by, while the COVID-19 pandemic has increased people’s desire to get a will, 2 out of 3 people do not have estate planning documents in place. Of the 2,500 Americans surveyed, only 22.5% of those aged 35-54 years old have estate planning documents, with only 32.9% of adults overall. These statistics are shocking, to say the least. 

Death and dying are often taboo topics – I get it – but, the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to have an estate plan in place. If you don’t take the time now to craft your plan, the State will do it for you…and who wants that? 

The greatest gift you can leave your children and loved ones is having a well thought out plan. Instead of stressing out over what to do and who gets what, they can focus on grieving, healing and celebrating your life. Coupled with sound financial planning, including naming beneficiaries to your various accounts (bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement plans and life insurance), you should also have an estate plan in place to leave a legacy of your property and ensure your dependents are taken care of.  Here are the common legal documents included in a typical estate plan:

1. Last Will & Testament / Living Trust

Have a family heirloom you want to gift to your son, or a special piece of jewelry that you’d like your daughter to wear on her wedding day? This is where that inheritance comes in. Via a will or trust, you will leave your assets to your loved ones and can make the ultimate gift to your favorite charity. 

You can be general or specific with what, when and even how the assets are distributed and used. For example, if you have minor children, you can direct that a trust be established for the benefit of your most prized possession (your kids) and have the trustee distribute trust funds upon the occurrence of a life event such as completion of college, the purchase of a home, or reaching a certain age. With a charity, you can direct that any monies you gift are used for a specific purpose. You can even make sure your furbaby is taken care of with a lifetime of healthcare and squeaky toys. 

Designating how you want your assets distributed and who you want them to go to in black and white actually makes it easier on your loved ones because it diminishes the potential guessing game (and family feuding) over “she would have wanted so and so to get this.” They can feel comforted knowing that whatever it is that you left them was intentional and the one last thing you wanted them to remember you by.

For those with minor children or other dependents, even more significant than leaving a bequest of property, is naming a guardian. This is done in your will. IMO, the greatest and most special gift you can leave to your littles is thoughtfully considering who will raise them in the event something should happen to you. When naming that trusted adult, think about how you want your children to be raised – values, education, community, spirituality and all. No one could ever raise your kids like you – but rather than the system, who would be able and willing to afford your mini-me the life you envision for them that will allow them to thrive?

2. Power of Attorney

This document names someone to take care of your affairs if you are unable to do so.

3. Healthcare Surrogate Designation

This document names someone to make healthcare decisions for you and ensure your wishes are honored if you are unable to do so.

4. Living Will

This document spells out your wishes for end-of-life care. 

While there are many online resources available to complete your estate planning, everyone’s needs are unique and it is always recommended to consult with an estate planning attorney. He or she will be able to help guide you in crafting the most appropriate estate plan that honors your wishes and will help you leave a lasting legacy to those you care most deeply about.

In sum, you can begin creating the legacy you want to leave behind, starting now.  Have your affairs in order, live your life fully with purpose and passion, and practice being present for the moments that make up your life. The mark you leave on this world is so much more than a dollar sign, and it truly does matter. You matter.

Live your best Kaleidoscope Life.